Kitchen incubator project proposed in Sussex

Facility would provide venue for training, food preparation
August 27, 2020

A new initiative aimed at helping Sussex County businesses may be coming at a crucial time in the economic fallout from the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Sussex County Economic Development Director Bill Pfaff introduced a proposed kitchen incubator project during the Aug. 11 Sussex County Council meeting.

Pfaff said the initiative addresses an objective in the county comprehensive plan to support small businesses and county-based industries.

Under the proposed project, a state-licensed and -certified kitchen would be constructed which could be rented by food truck operators, chefs, caterers and farmers for training, preparing food and storage. Members would pay an initiation fee and then pay an hourly fee when using the facility, Pfaff said. Storage space for members, including space in a walk-in freezer and cooler, would also be available.

The program would offer business planning, training, marketing, legal and distribution services to members. Pfaff said a full-time manager will be needed to oversee the program.

Pfaff said he sees a big opportunity to support the growing food truck industry by offering additional kitchen space, storage and training. “I can see this as a commissary for food trucks,” he said. “I'd like to see them create a buying cooperative to drive down the costs of their raw materials.”

Pfaff said a $150,000 grant from the Bond Bill will provide seed money. “We will establish a budget and come back to council with requests for any additional funding,” Pfaff said, adding planning will take another six months.

“This will provide a tremendous opportunity for businesses to expand and create new jobs,” Pfaff said.

The director said the project could be a big help to local restaurants as a training ground for future employees.

“Because of COVID-19 issues, these businesses need all the help we can give them. This incubator can do that,” he said.

Pfaff said an advisory group has been meeting over the past year to formulate a framework for the kitchen project. Members include representatives from several restaurants, including The Backyard, Good Earth Market, Dogfish Head, SoDel Concepts, The Counting House, and Backyard Jams and Jellies, as well as Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, and representatives from the Delaware Restaurant Association and Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.

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